Dear Editor

The NZ Herald‘s lack of historical sporting knowledge is embarrassing.
At the moment they’re touting the upcoming Joseph Parker-Junior Fa boxing match as “the biggest New Zealand heavyweight clash in history”. This is ludicrous. They’re a couple of ‘Neville Nobodys’ in global terms, although Parker did win a WBO title.

What about boxing’s heyday? It was the sport’s Golden Age! Tom Heeney beat Brian Verdon McCleary for the NZ professional heavyweight title in August 1923 and lost the title seven weeks later to Jim O’Sullivan. These were huge events, with packed houses. These gladiators were household names.

Brian Verdon McCleary (17 January 1897 – 2 July 1978) was a New Zealand rugby union player and boxer. He was a member of the All Blacks in 1924 and 1925, playing in the hooker position. He was also a New Zealand and Australasian amateur and professional light-heavyweight and heavyweight boxing champion.

McCleary had beaten Maurice Brownlie for the NZ amateur title in 1921. Both McCleary and Brownlie were or were to become All Blacks. Both were on the famous 1924-25 All Blacks Invincibles tour. Heeney had played against the touring Springboks in 1921.
Of course, Heeney – known as the Hard Rock from Down Under – was our most famous boxer. He fought Gene Tunney for the world heavyweight title at Madison Square Garden, New York, in 1928.
Incidentally, one can’t help but wonder what might be ‘paid content’ when it comes to the media pushing these modern boxing contests.

Regarding the NZ Herald’s lack of sporting knowledge, they recently referred to rugby’s John Hart as ‘legendary’. Yet Hart holds the worst All Black coaching record in history – five consecutive test losses in 1995. In the proud history of All Black rugby, no other coach has approached that.

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Letter to the Editor: NZ’s Biggest Clash in History?


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